It’s been a good 20+ years since the heyday of “hair metal”, a genre which nearly disappeared when Nirvana’s Nevermind pulled the rug out from underneath everyone and drew the music industry’s attention off the Sunset Strip. I say hair metal “nearly disappeared” because it never really dropped off the face of the Earth. MTV just stopped playing videos from those bands (they later abandoned music videos altogether even though there is still a demand for it, so what do they know). But it didn’t mean that people stopped listening to the music itself. Though there was a dip in popularity for a few years, the music actually made a lasting impression on people and has stood the test of time. I mean, is there a person alive under 50 who doesn’t know Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls”, Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer”, Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”?
One of the bands to come out of that era and hit it big was New Jersey band Skid Row. After a huge first album that spawned hits “Youth Gone Wild”, “18 & Life” and the mega-ballad “I Remember You”, their second album “Slave to The Grind” (released in June of 1991) debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart, ahead of Paula Abdul, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey and R.E.M. But, as bands do sometimes, the original lineup later split up and went their separate ways. Bassist Rachel Bolan, guitarists Dave “Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill have kept performing under the name Skid Row with new drummer Rob Hammersmith and singer Johnny Solinger, while singer Sebastian Bach continued on as a solo artist. Years after parting with Skid Row, Bach has headlined venues such as the Starland Ballroom and Irving Plaza. He also opened on major tours such as Guns N’ Roses in 2006 and Poison in 2008, as well as enjoyed a successful appearance at this year’s Rocklahoma fest.
Being that he is a true character in real life, it’s natural that Sebastian ended up on a few reality shows (Celebrity Fit Club, Supergroup) as well as hosted the metal themed video show Forever Wild on Vh-1. He’s even had a solid theatrical career starring in musicals Jekyll & Hyde, The Rocky Horror Show and Jesus Christ Superstar. While these ventures showed how multi-talented he is to anyone who thought otherwise, his strengths definitely lie in the art of rock and roll. This was clear last night when he played the Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie.
Just before Sebastian and his band took the stage, Pantera’s “Vulgar Display Of Power” played over the loudspeakers as the packed venue raised their plastic cups of beer and screamed along to the classic album. A great choice for pre-show considering that, besides being super high-energy music, Pantera actually opened for Skid Row on the “Slave To The Grind” tour while promoting that exact record.
When the lights finally went down, the aggressive opening chords of “Slave To The Grind” began battering eardrums as the tall frontman walked out and immediately began banging his head furiously to the beat as he helicopter-twirled his microphone. Out-headbanging his younger bandmates (guitarist Nick Sterling was “negative 2 years old” when “Youth Gone Wild” was written), Sebastian still has great stage presence, and not just because he is the best hair-whipper in the business. Always smiling, even when talking about his former band carrying on without him, Bach easily engaged the crowd, constantly hi-fiving his fans during the show and encouraging them to clap along. He even hand-delivered one of his bottles of water to a young boy in the crowd who was totally enamored with Bach the whole show, watching his every move as he sang along.
Performing solo material such as “You Don’t Understand”, “Stuck Inside” and “I’m Alive” (written by Sterling), he and the band also covered Skid Row’s music including “Here I Am”, “18 & Life” and “Big Guns.” A big highlight of the evening was when original Skid Row drummer and Poughkeepsie-area native Rob Affuso played drums for “I Remember You”, creating a nostalgic moment for old school fans as well as Bach himself, who reflected on playing the Chance when Skid Row was trying to get signed by Geffen back in the day. The show ended with the angsty anthem “Youth Gone Wild” as the grand finale.
It’s nice to see that the public is still interested in having fun with Sebastian at his shows. Back when the record industry abandoned the “hair metal” scene, one would think there was no future for the musicians involved. But judging from last night’s attendance as well as on other tours like the recent Motley Crue/Poison pairing (my review here), the 90’s backlash was only a temporary setback. Those with true talent, desire and charisma rose out of the ashes, picked themselves up by the bootstraps and carried on. Still one of the greatest voices in rock history (check out his work on “Wasted Time” for a great example of his vocal talents), Sebastian will definitely go down as a legendary frontman and proved last night that he’s still got it.
Check out my slideshow on Examiner of photos from the show here, with additional shots from the show here.
For more information on Sebastian and his upcoming release “Kicking & Screaming” (out September 27th), check out his website or follow him on Twitter. You can follow me on Twittter at @concertexaminer.